Dara's biggest problem is trying to fit into the plain folk community of her family until Tars comes riding in. He brings with him the damen kesh, a tradition of the old land and demands that Dara's older sister, Mirina, marry him. If Mirina submits to the demand, the plain folk will be forever bound to support Tars and his people. Dara's father worries that, if they submit to this tradition, that it will pave the way for the priests, their tithes and other traditions in the new land.
When Mirina commits suicide rather than doom her people, Dara has to make the same difficult choice that Mirina had: marry Tars through tradition, by force or die. On the way to Tars' home, Dara's father tells her to flee to the Ilijhari, the people who live in the hills and can talk to birds. While traveling, she encounters a renegade priest of Tith, the sun god in the old land. Together, Dara and Kentith make their way to the Ilijhari, where Dara finds out that she was adopted by the plain folk and that her mother was an Ilijhari and her father an unknown traveler. After a few days with the Ilijhari, Dara discovers that her adopted father was imprisoned by Tars for trying to hide her. She feels that she has no choice but to go to Tars and plead for her father's life. Kentith insists on accompanying her, even though there is a price on his head. Tars then holds Kentith hostage while he tries to persuade Dara to marry him. When the most powerful Tith priest, Narkith, starts destroying the land by fire, everyone blames Kentith. In order to save Kentith from execution at the hands of his fellow priests, Dara must agree to Tars' demands. But, as Tars and Dara hunt Narkith, everything changes...
This is a well written coming of age fantasy tale by Syndey J. Van Scyoc. Her characters are well drawn, but the reader feels the greatest kinship with the lead character, Dara, as she struggles to learn who she really is. Dara has great powers, but she is not all powerful. She makes mistakes and she loses control. Tars and Kentith were also very well developed and had many of the same crippling handicaps in their upbringing. Both were very strong characters and both had feelings for Dara. The world that Van Scyoc created was intriguing, although not fully fleshed out. The book had a strong message about life not always working out the way you would like it to. Dara had to make heartbreaking decisions and learn to follow her own pathway in life. This was a nice change from most books where everything works out in the end, but did not make the most pleasant ending.
This report prepared by Debbie